page by Bill Pagel
Review by Graham Cole
I'd never been to Cardiff before, and indeed my excursions into Wales have been very few. So this
was new territory for seeing the 2004 Bob and for losing, temporarily, my wife Loraine!
We made the longish trek up from Southampton anxious every time the traffic slowed to a crawl, but
stopping only briefly to check into our hotel in Newport, made it to join the short queue at 6.05 or
so. At 6.30 or so the doors were opened and in we filed, stopped only to relieve us of the caps from
our bottles of water (not sure why, unless they are now seen as the ultimate "Can't stand this rubbish"
missile to throw at your fave artiste mid-song??) and we found our hoped for place in front of the
keyboard that Bob would be playing, maybe about 15 rows back, but with a good view of everything on
stage. Time for a trip to the loo for Loraine, before the crowds behind us build up, but when she
hadn't returned after fifteen minutes and they had built up, I started wondering whether she might
have inveigled her way into a backstage loo … In fact, she had lost me on her return, but had ended
up some halfway between me and the stage, thus gaining an even better and closer view of things.
So how good was what we saw on this opening night of the Euro jaunt? I guess we agree that this was
not a classic, top-of-the-pile show, but it moved well, and there were some good highlights in the set,
and we had our first UK sighting of the new guitarist, Stu Kimball, and for us, the verdict on the new
man was a sure-fire thumbs UP! He may not have been with them for long, but last night he played with
an assurance and fluidity, and above all, he meshed in with the boys in the band brilliantly well,
especially in his interplay with Larry. Moreover, it seemed to me that Bob looked pleased with him,
giving some approving nods and smiles from time to time, something quite different to the grimaces that
Freddie K received.
The band came onstage at 7.55, looking, as ever, like the band of besuited latter-day cowboys that we
have become familiar with, Bob in dark suit and pale Stetson and looking sharp and on good form. Then
without more ado, it was straight into a rousing Seeing the Real You At Last, with clear vocals (the
sound generally was good, with Dylan's vocals consistently well clear, at least to my tired ears).
Then, in what became a pattern for much of the evening, things slowed and quietened down into a lovely
It's All Over Now Baby Blue. The arrangement left some of the audience unsure of the song at first,
but it was delivered softly and sweetly, against lovely clear instrumentation, and set the tone for
the quieter numbers that were to follow in the set. Tweedle Dee cranked the volume and pace up again,
and brought the first sign of the excellent understanding between the two guitarists as Larry and
Stu's interplaying sparkled on this and other songs.
A U.S. review recently suggested a move away from the country feel of Dylan's performances, but this
certainly was not true of the wonderful rendition of Just Like a Woman, which was one of two special
highlights for me tonight. It was slow and moody in a beautiful way, with Larry's pedal steel ringing
plaintively around the lyrics. In addition I noticed that here Stu K played some of the guitar licks
almost in the style that was to be heard when this and other songs first appeared on disc many moons
ago. Bob played some effective harp on the tune as well, and although he never was a Sonny Terry
soundalike on this instrument, his light touches often add just that extra something to some of the
performances. Then tempo up again for Most Likely You Go Your way, a performance which for me showed
the strength of the band in its present incarnation ... and back down again for the gentleness of the
Girl From The North Country. I really thought that Bob was trying hard with his vocals all evening
and this golden oldie proved the point as he gently lilted through the words, and this, in a somewhat
different vein was very much the case for If Dogs Run Free, which had a lazy and sleazy, jazzy
treatment. New Morning was always a firm favourite for me - an birthday present early on from Loraine
could be one reason why - so to hear this tune again was great, and again Stu K seemed to be really
enjoying his rôle. He doesn't move about as did Freddie Koala, and therefore never gives the physical
impression of trying to "show off", but his contributions to the band sound were consistently
excellent. At the end of the tune we even got a brief glimpse of the man doing a the "Bob" skip
across the stage, though he generally moved about the boards very little. Dogs had followed on from
Cold Irons Bound, which really rocked out, but nowhere near as well as on the real highlight of the
evening for me, next up, Highway 61 Revisited. I thought this song was one of the best versions I've
heard him do in a long time (and it isn't even a particular favourite), - it really moved and had the
crowd very excited, and again was a great example of the band at its tightest. And having catapulted
us into a whirl with H61, he then kept us up there, almost literally, with Shooting Star, in which,
perhaps for the first time of the show, the keyboards came across as underpinning the band's sound.
Curiously, Stuck Inside of Mobile followed, and this was the muddiest performance of the night. Things
just didn't seem to gel at all as far as I could see and hear - maybe it was just me, but it didn't
really work on my hearing? At least though Dylan had one more card up his sleeve with a new treatment
of It Ain't Me, which now chugs happily along and seemed almost to be trying for that crowd-pleasing
anthemic style that LARS has gained over the years. It worked at any rate, but from that point on we
moved into the fairly predictable end of show closers. Summer Days was okay, but it has lost its
freshness for me, and then the three encores signalled that the show was over, even if performed in an
entirely acceptable manner. Cats in the Well, in particular, again showed some good interplay between
Larry and Stu Kimball. Cardiff could not bring on the swinging lights for LARS, but on the other hand,
the overall use of lighting during the evening was most effective, lots of whites, oranges and in
particular a very soft, and sympathetic pale lilac to complement the bands hard work.
Now we have The Fleadh to look forward to, and for my son Sam, a first chance to see Bob, a player he
has heard so often at home, on the car radio, and elsewhere, and has actually come to appreciate, at
least a little bit. I'm hoping Finsbury Park will add to all our efforts to persuade him that he
really is the greatest! Fingers crossed and off we go to London!
Review by Toby Richards-Carpenter
by Toby Richards-Carpenter
There's a standard scene that appears in several Hollywood action films. An underground tunnel, with
someone in it, springs a water leak. First a trickle, then a flood of water enters the system until the
man staring down the tunnel is blown backwards by the force of the flow, which bursts out of a hole in
Bob Dylan's focus tonight carried the intensity of tunnel vision. The set-list we faced was familiar as
water, a heap of NET standards, yet as the flow built I felt blasted away, my resistance broken, by the
cumulative and surprising energy of Bob's stoic singing. Head down, blinkers on, eyes burning, he belted
out the songs with power and passion.
Dylan is accustomed to being greeted with a raucous, beery din at every venue, and Cardiff roared every
song with excitement. But people listened too, and found the greatest thrill in the surging 2004
reassembly of 'It Ain't Me, Babe' - it was a cheer that recognised the bravery and brilliance of the
recreation of what used to be a favourite old song.
Dylan chanted the verses insistently, before opening his heart and charging to the song's emotive
crescendo. It would have been enough just to play the song, but Bob renewed it with belief.
'It Ain't Me, Babe' was my personal highlight of the evening, immaculately sung, but I admit to being a
sucker for the arrangement. The same commitment from Bob was evident in other performances.
'Shooting Star' was delivered as an urgent warning, articulate and certain, Bob's only hope being to
sing the song. 'Just Like A Woman' was a performance that grew, from ambivalent beginnings to a vital
diversion as he recognised the crux of the problem 'you take, you fake, you make'. And 'It's All Over
Now, Baby Blue' stood straight and tall in the number two slot, its phrases compressed, Bob out of
patience, singing so clearly to make sure she hears.
The new guitarist, Stu Kimball, seems like a find. He plays rock'n'roll ably and with fire, dancing with
Larry's guitar figures and ripping it up. Larry came more to the fore tonight than he had been at the
shows last November, and he and Stu traded gloriously riotous riffs during 'Summer Days', 'Honest With
Me' and especially 'Highway 61 Revisited'.
In a sense the show felt like a tough audition for Stu. Bob was watching him intently the whole evening,
at least in those moments when his gaze was not entirely on the purpose of the song he was singing.
This impression, admittedly, was partly transmitted by the sober song selection, not that I'm complaining.
These are the staples that Stu will have to master, and if the way he tore through 'Stuck Inside Of
Mobile' is anything to go by, it won't be long before Bob's able to mix things up some more.
And what of Bob's voice? Well, who knows? It was probably fried but I'm not sure, I only heard him sing,
sing like an early morning starling. That's all that matters. Between Bob and the songs there was some
fun being had, that's for sure!
Bob failed to suppress a grin on several occasions tonight, and threw in a cheeky 'Well how would I?'
following the line 'And I said "Oh I didn't know that"' in 'Mobile'. 'If Dogs Run Free' was a hilarious
head-nodder, and I can't believe Bob doesn't find humour in turning 'All Along The Watchtower' the
blackest shade of dark he can muster. The song now features Larry on pedal steel, wailing away in spooky,
unearthly overtones as Bob's voice echoes round the hall.
Bob played some ambitious harmonica tonight, only some of it well-judged. 'Just Like A Woman' and 'It's
All Over Now, Baby Blue' delivered us to new heights, and the harp solo in 'It Ain't Me, Babe' sent me
free-falling over the ledge in excitement. 'Cat's In The Well', however, was rendered even odder than
usual by a harp fill that there simply wasn't room for: it left me baffled.
The audience was lucky to hear all this tonight, since the show didn't seem to be for us. It was for the
songs; Bob was showing Stu Kimball the songs, and paying tribute to his songs by singing them with utter
commitment and as much conviction as seemed appropriate.
I really ought to be in familiar waters with Bob Dylan's music by now. But, 18 shows on since I first
saw him, also at the Cardiff International Arena incidentally, the sheer force of the flow still
Review by Steve
As a relatively recent convert to Dylan, I wouldn't call myself an expert,
but here's my opinion of his show in Cardiff, 18th June 2004.
"Apart from a very few balcony seats at the sides and rear of the arena,
it was an all-standing show. I would guess between 3 and 4,000 people were
there. It cost £30 for a standing ticket.
Shortly before 8pm, Bob and the band arrived on stage. It was already very
warm and continued to get warmer. Most people had a drink in their hand
and many ignored the smoking ban - there was a kind of haze hanging over
most of the crowd. After a while, all you could smell was smoke and sweat.
'Seeing The Real You At Last' felt like a very appropriate beginning, this
being my first Dylan show.
People who know the venue will be aware that the sound is sometimes a big
let down. And it certainly was on this occasion. But after a few songs,
you kind of got used to it and relaxed and enjoyed it. To be honest, the
problem seemed to be Bob's mic - I don't think it was simply a case of him
being too close to it, the sound was harsh and initially, hard to listen
I must admit that I wasn't familiar with all of the songs, most of them,
but not all.
Partly due to the sound quality, partly down to the different
arrangements, it sometimes took a while to figure out even the songs I
knew - sometimes it didn't become clear until the chorus. OK, I wasn't
expecting CD quality, but it was a little disappointing. Even the band
introductions were hard to decipher.
I wasn't close enough to the stage to see Bob Dylan's face clearly, but
his white cowboy hat, dark suit, and the white stripe down the side of his
pants were clear enough. He seemed to be having fun up there. Whenever he
picked up the harmonica (harp) everyone cheered, it was great to hear. He
spent most of the show at the left of the stage, playing the keyboard. On
some songs he was really getting into it, nodding his head vigorously.
I must say his voice, despite the sound quality, was better than I
expected, considering he's 63. The band were impressive - admittedly I'm
no expert, but I couldn't fault their playing at all. The acoustic numbers
(Girl Of The North Country, It Aint Me Babe) were particularly good.
Apart from a few grumbles over the sound quality, people seemed to enjoy
it - just thinking 'I'm here in the same room as Bob Dylan!'. You could
see people craning their necks to get a good look at him. He hardly looked
at the crowd at all.
The energy and enthusiasm of both crowd and performers during the encore
songs (Cat's In The Well, Like A Rolling Stone, All Along The Watchtower),
was great to experience. If only the whole show could've been more like
that. There were 17 songs in all.
By the end of the show, I was hot, my ears were ringing, my voice was
gone, my hands ached from all the clapping, my legs were aching, my lower
back was aching, but it felt good to have witnessed Bob Dylan in action,
even if it wasn't exactly a classic show. Maybe my standards are just too
Dylan and the band left the stage. Despite some frenzied cheering and
applause, they didn't return. The lights eventually came up and everyone
slowly filed out.
Highlights for me: Cold Irons Bound, Girl Of The North Country, Shooting
Star, It Aint Me Babe, Like A Rolling Stone and All Along The Watchtower".
Comments by Mick Bamford
How can anyone pay £90 for three tickets and talk continually through the
whole show? I thought it was just our American friends who did that ,
judging by the US boots I've listened to, but no our Welsh cousins do it
as well! Not only talk but have their backs to the stage all the way
through. Gripes over onto the show, excellent opener Seeing the real you,
but as usual the sound didn't get sorted out till 2nd or 3rd song why
bother with sound checks? Other highlights for me were Just like a woman
sang with real feeling, a rare outing for Shooting Star and a new version
of It ain't me babe which really got the crowd going. Overall an excellent
opening show with Bob and the Band in good form, must say Stu Kimball is a
welcome addition instead of the Koala Bear. Regrettably for me the only
show on this brief UK tour but things look good for our friends in the
Review by Steven Pearce
First Bob show for me - live or on tape - in a couple of years (I got a
little disenchanted in the Sexton/Kemper era with samey setlists and a
band at times going through the motions) so I was intrigued about what I
would find in Cardiff last night. Maybe it was the thrill of seeing the
great man live and in person again, I don't know, but I thought this was a
terrific show. Bob's vocals were clear and distinct from the off - the
keyboard really has liberated his voice, it seems - and his harmonica
breaks were as committed as I have ever heard. It's a heavy show, now,
though, especially with new guy Kimball (over)straining to assert his
credentials beneath the Master's baleful scrutiny...
Must admit I hankered for a lighter touch - which is probably why the gem
of the set for me was a sublime Girl of the North Country, apparently
reworked as an English air, with a wonderful bittersweet vocal. Loved too
IAMB, now an irresistable, surging crowd pleaser, and the apocalyptic riot
which Cold Irons Bound has become.
Still don't like the motionless "lineup", and the encores sucked...but
there was something transcendent about the performance which made me
realise (once again)why Bob Dylan is utterly unique.
Review by Arthur Deakin
Went with my wife, not a fan, to my 'nth' concert & first one in Cardiff.
The CIA is an impressive building but seems totally acoustically unsuited
to rock concerts. Bob seemed happy & on good form. Set list early on was
interesting@ first time I have heard "Dogs Run Free" & "Most likely you'll
go your way" live. Cold Irons Bound excellent. Band as tight and good as
ever: new guitarists seemelessly integrated. Sound mix was dreadful -
despite many fans having a constructive "go" at the sound box technicians
to get it right. Bob was in very good voice, good phrasing & timing BUT it
was nearly all lost in the sound mix: SACK THESE GUYS - they nearly
managed to ruin what was potentially a very good concert. The crowd was
strangley "unengaged" all evening. Highlights LARS (surprisingly really:
no lights turned on the audience this time around): Highway 61 rocked
well; Summer Days gets better & better every time I hear it live; Girl of
the North Country was also well done. Bob looked happy & relaxed but
never really took off: did he know his great efforts were being mangled
by his sound team? Off to Newcastle on Tuesday: for n+1 th concert - hope
those guys have been sacked so "good" goes to excellent & beyond. Keep at
it Bob, you're getting better all the time.
Review by Jim Scott
A workmanlike performance from Bob Dylan in the opening performance of his European tour back in the
UK just over 6 months after his last appearance; surely in itself a record from a man who usually
waited at least 3 years and often much much longer between European trips. Two standout performances,
however, Just like a woman and It ain't me babe. The former probably no more than a typical arrangement
made exceptional by Dylan's continuing capacity to perform out of his skin on occasions (which is
obviously one of many reasons we pay our money and travel long distances to see him.)
The other highlight was one of his classic early songs which Dylan had substantially re-arranged into a
more syncopated though less lyrical version. Here too he sang with a rare passion especially on the
chorus, as though every word was passing his lips for the first ever time…as though he did want to
remind us that he still wasn't the spokesman of a generation and that he wasn't going to let us put him
in that particular straight jacket yet. The audience responded in kind giving a thunderous ovation to
Dylan and his backing group
Elsewhere the show was perhaps a little more routine, though Dylan's voice was thankfully strong and
consistent, as one would expect one the opening night of a tour-leg. The one small surprise in the set
list for me was Shooting star, which he performed with commitment but not too much subtlety, I would
say. Less successful performances in my opinion included Girl from the North Country, which perhaps most
clearly highlighted the frailty of his voice, though to be fair our elder son who was with me thought he
sang this extremely well. The ballad was, I felt, quite simply too tender for his current singing
capacity. In a different context, although Bob obviously likes If dogs run free, it is, to quote the
English idiom, not my cup of tea. Highway 61, Memphis Blues, Summer days and his now standard encore
triple were very well performed indeed.
As on his last visit, Dylan played keyboards stage left. He continued to play harmonica with his left
hand only, stabbing listlessly but insistently at the keyboard with his right. When not playing harmonica,
his physical demeanour was as constricted as ever, as though the elbows of his jacket had been stitched
to the waist! Just occasionally he stopped playing and stood in apparent admiration as he listened to his
well-rehearsed backing group. As I was in the balcony behind him it wasn't possible to see any facial
expressions but he seemed to spend a lot of time in eye contact with the new guitarist, nodding assent as
Stu Kimball played standing fairly close to Dylan. After about 5 songs, Dylan took to leaving the
keyboard after almost every song to cross the stage and whisper to Tony Garner, presumably only then
informing him of what song would come next. Both after the main set and again after the encore, Dylan and
his musicians lined up centre stage to soak in the enthusiastic applause of his fans with Dylan displaying
his typical impassive look whilst making small apparently uncomfortable gestures with his right hand held
close to his shoulder and in which he was clutching a harmonica.
So what is the attraction of even a routine show from Dylan? Undoubtedly my belief that, to quote a
British journalist more than 10 years ago, Bob Dylan is the single most important force for good in
post-second world war America. British newspapers the next morning said that tickets for Madonna concerts
were selling at 5 times the price for Dylan's show; I know whom I'll be going to see next time. You never
know, he might even perform Brownsville Girl. Now that would be well worth joining a queue for.
Review by Jeremy Stone
Question: What is a Dylan concert for? Choose one of the following:
(a) For the bard to endlessly remake his back catalogue in new and suprising forms
(b) For the Boblings to pay homage to a genius trading on the nostalgia
(c) For an old fart to keep his name in the news
(d) For Dylan to have a laugh at the expense of his unquestioning worshippers
(e) None of the above
(f) All of the above
I found this latest Bobshow a bit of a conumdrum. Bob and his highly competent band played all the
songs well enough and there were moments that were quite beautiful, particularly the new versions of
'Girl From The North Country' and 'It Ain't Me Babe'. There were moments of raw power in 'Cold Irons
Bound' and 'Honest With Me' and a point of quirky suprise in the delightful rendition of 'If Dogs Run
Free'. The rest of the gig was Bob running through his 'back pages' with his regular bizarre phrasing;
his band adding a perfect but unexciting background. After each song Bob would leave his place behind
his electric piano (yes, PIANO) and jog across the stage to tell bass player Tony Garnier which song
he had decided to play next and off they would go. Essentially, the band are a Dylan Jukebox and Bob
is the punter, loading the machine with metaphorical cash so he can hear his favourite tunes once more.
There is no element of danger because you know that they have been playing the songs for so many years
now and they know Dylan's quirks so well, nothing can go wrong. This takes the edge off things for me.
This band aren't THE Band. Having said that, it must be acknowledged that Dylan has earned his right to
do what the hell he likes and the 'Never Ending Tour' (on the road since 1988) is one of the wonders
of nature. It was great to see Bob looking so well and, at times, his shattered vocal chords caught a
rather beautiful kind of energy. When is the 63 year old going to stop? I hope he never does. Going to
see Bob play is an honour and always worth it for the inevitable magic that occurs at each gig. It
would be nice to have a new album, though. Rock on, Mr. Dylan
Review by Steve Cook
Another Dylan gig in Cardiff - and with memories of last year's awful
Birmingham date still in my mind, I was really hoping for something good.
Tonight Bob didn't disappoint! With a week off he sounded fresh and
interested, and he looked happy. Overall, the mix was good and what an
improvement Stu Kimball is to Koella. He and Larry really excelled
themselves on a fantastic version of Watchtower to close the show.
The highlights for me: a very touching version of Just Like A Woman, a
great reworking of It Ain't Me Babe, and the gem of the evening, a
wonderfully understated and acoustic Girl Of The North Country: worth the
ticket price alone!
It was great to hear Most Likely You Go Your Way (And I'll Go Mine), and
Highway 61 and Cold Irons Bound also sounded fresher than for a long time.
Dylan's voice was in great shape, the band were rocking, and if the
weather stays fine - the crowd at the Fleadh in London are in for a good
Review by Sascha Krieger
First things first: There are many ways countries or regions can make
themselves attractive to visitors: Some have beautiful landscapes, other
sunny beaches. And still others can boast cities that never sleep. Wales
has found yet another way: It charges an entrance fee, thus building up
the excitement about what wonders may lay ahead. And the visitor is not
disappointed as the famed Severn tollbridge is the first major attraction:
After all this is the undisputed winner in the worldwide "Best Idea to
Create a Completely Unnecessary but Totally Devastating Traffic Jam"
But you surely ain't seen nothin' yet until you get to Cardiff. Whoever
built the world's first maze clearly had an intimate knowledge of Cardiff.
The city is designed according to two objectives: Don't let the visitor
reach his goal and don't, under any circumstances, let him out of the city
again. In order to achieve this, the city fathers have come up with a
number of truly ingenious devices - like the intricate system of signposts
indicating car parks which lead the unsuspecting visitor everywhere, but
not to car parks.
Alright, let's get to the show. Cardiff International Arena is a decent
venue which feels relatively intimate for a place this size. Bob kept us
waiting a little but when he came on the first thing I noticed was: The
hat is back! Seeing the real Bob at last after many an impersonation from
certain members of the audience, off they went into what is clearly one of
Bob's better openers. The band was rocking hard from the start and the
song gave Bob a good chance to get his voice warmed up as he was savagely
barking out the lines.
The next two songs were forgettable: His current, horribly rushed Baby
Blue and the once rocking Tweedle Dee which is more like a lullaby sung on
at least two Valium these days. But don't despair, it got better: Just
Like a Woman was beautifully tender, accentuated by Larry Campbells steel
guitar and Stu Kimball's fine and pointed guitar play. A heartfelt version
that was clearly one of the shows highlights.
Next up was a good but not outstanding Most Likely followed by an almost
stellar Girl of the North Country. You could have heard a pin drop as Bob
gently stepped through this gem, giving us one of the best of his fine and
surprisingly melodic harp solos of the night. A real tear jerker.
Then the band put their rocking boots back on and gave us what must have
been the greatest Cold Irons Bound I've ever heard: Brutal, savage, loud,
but sharp and pointed, paying attention to every single note. The
definitive performance of this great song.
Then we got sloppy again. If Dogs Run Free sounded like Bye and Bye and
did not leave any impression - unlike another heavy metal rendition of
Highway 61. The band was rocking so hard - with a strong vocal performance
by Bob - I was afraid the roof might come down. This was followed by an
excellent, gently flowing, pedal steel and harp driven Shooting Star -
another highlight as well as proof that Bob is still a fine singer of
Honest with me good but not outstanding, followed by the new version of It
Ain't Me Babe on which Bob seems much more interested in rhythmic patterns
and structures than in the song itself. Perhaps the night's only real
turkey. Summer Days was as fast, driving and rocking as ever with the band
in top form.
Talking about the band: The switch from Freddie Koella to Stu Kimball did
the band a lot of good. Kimball knows exactly what he's doing at all
times, he is as good at rhythm driven rocking numbers as he at little
blues licks and shining guitar solos during ballads. Larry Campbell will
be the happiest as he now has a partner again with whom he can actually
play. They certainly did a fine job playing off each other. This band is a
whole again as it has not been since Charlie Sexton left.
Back to the show and on with the usual encores: a lackluster Cat's in the
Well, a crowd pleasing and very well performed Like a Rolling Stone and
then, a real surprise. Yes it was Watchtower (after Bob had left his
keyboard to introduce the band from the middle of the stage), but what a
performance it was: Apocalyptic, roof raising, uncompromising - easily the
best I've heard. The band took this song to heights it had never reached
before and left me breathless. If there is one performance the song was
destined for it was this one.
So overall, what we got was a rather good tour opener with, again very
sharp and pointed vocals from Bob who pays close attention to every single
syllable and form the words carefully in his mouth before he lets the out.
All in all, this wasn't the best show I've seen him do but the real
highlights more than repaid for the clunkers. And the new band is a joy to
listen to. So, no complaints really.
London, June 20
It was raining from the first... There was one sure sign indicating when a
new act had started playing on the main stage: Shortly afterwards it
started raining heavily. From the first act after our arrival (a band
called Delays) till the Counting Crows, this scenario was followed. Until
the main act, that is. When Bob Dylan entered the stage, the sky suddenly
cleared. We should have known then it would be a special night.
But let's be chronological. With festivals like this, it is a matter of
selection of what you're going to see. I went for three acts and couldn't
have made a better decision. First, Christy Moore. The legendary Irish
singer (and ex member of the best band Irish folk has ever produced) was
joined by regular sidekick Declan Sinnott on guitar and old Planxty buddy
Donal Lunny on a number of instruments (among them mandolin and bodhram).
They kicked off with a fine City of Chicago and it was all perfoect from
there. They gave us a number of his classics: the inevitable Ride On, a
surprisingly good (because stripped of its original 80s style production)
Missing You, a spirited Ordinary Man, to name just a few. Interesting was
the high number of political (especially anti-fascist) songs like Viva La
Quinta Brigada and a superb song the title of which escapes me (something
with triangle). The highlight was a sublime Black Is the Colour that
brought tears to my eyes. The set which saw Christy in excellent voice and
the band in fine spirits finished with a great sing along Lisdoonvarna
into which Christy inserted a verse of I'll Tell Me Ma. An excellent start
to the festival for me.
Then we were off to the Borderline Tent to see John Prine and what a set
it was!. There is this small unassuming humble man who has you in his grip
the moment he gets on stage. Prine was clearly enjoying himself, sharing
stories (about a fan once shouting for "the song about the happy
enchilada" or how he once went to the mountains to save his marriage and
catch some fish, whatever came up first). Accompanied by a superb two
piece band, he played many of his best and classic soungs which despite
his older, croakier voice sounded as fresh and and new as ever. Sad,
thoughtful and gentle ballads like Sam Stone, All the Best or Angel from
Montgomery enterchanged with hilariously funny moments (Dear Abby), sing
along classics (Way that the World Goes Round aka the "happy enchilada
song") and high speed country (Barrow? Creek). After finishing the set
with a long and soulful Peaceful Waters, the encore was sublime: the
haunting Hello In There and the raucous, audience involving Illegal Smile.
This was a tough act for Bob to follow but follow it he did. When he came
on, I doubted my counting skills as there seemed to be one too many on
stage. But even from the distance it didn't take long to find out that the
extra man on stage was none other than Ronnie Wood himself. And even
though it looked like he hadn't been able to rehearse with the band at
all, he started making his contribution with some fine licks that spiced
up the opener Down Along the Cove. The beginning, however, wasn't very
promising. The horribly rushed Baby Blue was followed by a decent but not
exactly high energy Lonesome Day Blues and a not more than standard
Then things picked up and again Wood was partly to blame as he added a
nice edge to a fine Desolation Row. Seeing the Real You at Last got the
band rocking before Wood contributed some brilliant solos to a great 4th
Street that really shone and worked brilliantly in its relaxed new style
even without the anger and aggressiveness of the original. Tweedle Dee was
substandard and let me to suspect we were getting a show full of openers
having me guessing whether we were in for an encore of Silvio, Roving
Gambler and Everything Is Broken.
But no, up next were a great, stripped down, rocking High Water and a mind
blowing Highway 61 with all three guitarists trading riffs and solos
(amazing soloing from Larry!) as if they were playing for their lives. It
was already a great show at this point but nothing prepared us for what
was to come next: A sublime, goosebumps inspiring, tearjerking Not Dark
Yet, beautifully driven by Larry Campbells pedal steel and Bob's haunting
vocals. A moment to sent shivers down everybody's spines.
Honest with Me was perfect to release the tension in a freely rocking and
surprisingly inspired version. Then a real treat: A completel rearranged,
dreamy, almost angelic Boots with amazing vocals and harp from Bob that
took him and the band into some outer spheres. Absolutely mindblowing!!!
The set finished with a fine Summer Days which had Ronnie quite lost.
After a full set we got only one encore but nobody minded. Like a Rolling
Stone in the presence of a Rolling Stone had the crowd going mad, with
thousands shouting "How does it
feeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeel.............................) - a
great moment. Ronnie contributed some more fine riffs and conducted the
crowd during the choruses.
That was the end of a show that was special in many ways (some of the
performances, Ronnie Wood, the atmosphere) and will become an instant
bootleg, I predict. Bob seemed to have a gret time (he was talking to
Ronnie for ages during LARS) and the band seemed to be edged on an extra
bit by Robbie's presence. At the end, I was dying there of thirst but it
was so worth it!
page by Bill Pagel
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